Chhattisgarh has turned into the most politically and administratively sensitive state among the five going to poll in November 2023, as it is reflected in the decision of the Election Commission of India to conduct polls in two phases – first on November 7 and second on November 17.
Left Wing Extremism has already been referred to by PM Narendra Modi in his pre-election campaign in the state, and the Congress government in the state had made a statement only a day ahead of the PM’s visit to Jagdalpur, that Naxalism has declined by 52 per cent in Chhattisgarh in the last five years and 589 villages have been freed from the clutches of the menace. During 2018-2022, the state government said, as many as 314 schools that were shut for one-and-a-half decades due to Maoist violence have been reopened. Besides, over 5.74 lakh people have been freed from their clutches, the government statement read.
The two-phase election in the state has been scheduled in this immediate background. Elections to the 20 Vidhan Sabha Constituencies are scheduled in the first phase and 70 in the second phase. Out of the 20 in the first phase, Congress had won 17 and BJP 2 seats in 2018 Vidhan Sabha election while Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J), JCC(J), could win only one seat. Out of 70 in the second phase, Congress had won 51 seats, BJP 13, JCC(J) 4, and BSP 2 seats.
“Gadhbo Nava Chhattisgarh” (Will create new Chhattisgarh) is the political theme of the Congress led state government under the Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, that claims to be marching ahead with a three-pronged strategy of trust, security, and development.
PM Narendra Modi on the other hand has said in one of his rallies that the Congress is run by “urban Naxals”. It is a serious allegation coming from Prime Minister, which cannot be ignored. He had alleged that Congress party of outsourcing its policies to “urban Naxals”.
“Who holds the contract of Congress? Congress’s contract is with some urban Naxals now. Urban Naxals are the ones running the show in Congress. This is what every Congress worker feels on the ground. That’s why Congress is continuously deteriorating on the ground,” Modi said.
Last week while addressing the “Parivartan Sankalp Yatra” in Jagdalpur, PM focused on allegations of corruption prevalent in Chhattisgarh, Naxalisms, and lack of development in the state. PM Modi, as mascot of the BJP in the state, also launched several projects and schemes in the state.
Congress on the other hand is focusing on mishandling of the economic policies under PM Narendra Modi, anti-poor and pro-corporate policies, and adopting divisive communal politics, and setting one religious group against the other. Congress has been showcasing its development and welfare schemes for the people, and now has promised Caste Census if it returns to power in the state.
The political signals emanating from the ground level suggests that the Congress is far ahead than the BJP. Even the latest CVoter, that is suspected to be favouring the BJP, has found in its latest survey that Congress is set to gain about 45.3 per cent of votes while the BJP could bag about 43.5 per cent of votes. The survey finds a close contest between the Congress and BJP. In terms of seats, the survey has projected the Congress to win seats in the range of 45-51 seats while the BJP in the range of 39-45 seats. Other political parties are projected to win only 2 seats.
As per the survey, Congress is set to increase its vote share by 2.2 per cent, but BJP has also been projected to increase 10 per cent of votes. Other political parties are projected to lose their 13 per cent vote share.
Though the survey has certain contradictions in itself, the ground level situation signals that both the Congress and BJP have emerged as chief contestant at the cost of other political parties. BSP still have influence among the Dalits, the party which had won 2 seats in the 2018 Vidhan Sabha election. Congress had won 68 seats while the BJP had won 15 and JCC(J) 5 seats.
Congress vote share in 2018 Vidhan Sabha election was 43.04 per cent, while BJP was able to bag only 32.97 per cent of votes. BSP’s vote share was 3.87 per cent, and JCC(J) 7.61 per cent. After death of Ajit Jogi in 2020, JCC(J) has lost much of its support base in the state, and therefore, it would be the major loser in the present Vidhan Sabha election.
BJP has been pinning hope on its perceived anti-incumbency against the ruling Congress in the state, however, every survey and the ground reports suggest that the Congress is going to increase its votes share. It is in this background, Congress is aiming at increasing its tally from 68 in 2018 to 75 in 2023. It is not an ambitious aim, since the Congress is currently holding 71 seats in the assembly. Pro-farmer, pro-tribals, and pro-poor schemes are its strength, apart from CM Bhupesh Baghel’s significant hold on the OBCs and rural voters, and the promise to have caste census in the state if Congress returns to power.
BJP on the other hand has greatly been suffering from infighting. It is due to this reason the party is unable to project CM face. The party is contesting in the name of PM Narendra Modi. BJP had released its first list of 21 candidates in August, and second list of 64 candidates on October 9. Congress is likely to finalize the list of its candidates soon.
CM Baghel and the Congress are in dominant positions on the ground level, and PM Modi and the BJP finding it very tough to match. (IPA Service)